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Open Educational Resources: What is OER?

Global OER logo: three hands reaching out of an open book

OER Global Logo by Jonathas Mello is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (CC BY 3.0).

What makes an educational resource open?

An open educational resource (OER) is free to access and use and is licensed so that it can be shared and modified. The 5 Rs describe rights that users of OER have: they may Retain, Reuse, Revise, Remix, and Redistribute these materials. 

  • Retain - make, own, and control a copy of the resource (e.g., download and keep your own copy)
  • Revise - edit, adapt, and modify your copy of the resource (e.g., translate into another language)
  • Remix - combine your original or revised copy of the resource with other existing material to create something new (e.g., make a mashup)
  • Reuse - use your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource publicly (e.g., on a website, in a presentation, in a class)
  • Redistribute - share copies of your original, revised, or remixed copy of the resource with others (e.g., post a copy online or give one to a friend)

This material is an adaptation of Defining the "Open" in Open Content and Open Educational Resources, which was originally written by David Wiley and published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at

Why use OER?

There are many advantages to using OER. These include:

  • Immediate, no-cost access to learning materials. Students save money and can engage with coursework from day one through the end of the course and beyond.
  • Adaptability to fit course needs. Because instructors can revise and remix at will, they can ensure that their course materials cover the required topics in a way that is tailored for and representative of their students.
  • Accessibility to meet student learning accommodations. Because OER can be revised and remixed, there are no copyright-based restrictions on reformatting materials.
  • Independence from commercial publisher and distributor constraints. Instructors and students can avoid the promotion of unnecessary new editions of textbooks.

Overview of OER

Open Licenses

Open licenses work within the copyright system, allowing copyright holders to reserve *some* of their rights and to share other rights in well-defined, standardized ways. 

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